Do you ever go through times where you wish your emotions would stop swaying at the whim of a troubling experience? And is it difficult to bring yourself back to a state of calm once a particular event has unwillingly triggered your mood to spike?
According to research, there's a path to avoid this and access a state of mind that will grant you the ability to weather any emotional storm, called equanimity¹.
Periods of adversity or discomfort are natural; no matter how much we try to maintain a balanced life, pain inevitably finds us. In such cases, keeping our emotions in check becomes increasingly difficult, and we find ourselves being swept away in a current outside our conscious control.
By default, most individuals find themselves unable to keep a level head in response to the plethora of daily experiences they are confronted with. The reason behind this is not that they can’t manage their emotions, nor is it because they are weak, but rather because they lack the ability to be equanimous.
Officially defined as the ability to keep an even-minded mental state or emotional disposition toward all experiences, events, or objects, equanimity is an ancient Buddhist practice that has since taken root in psychological research due to the myriad of benefits it provides².
Put simply, by being equanimous, an individual is able to remain at baseline levels of emotional stimulation regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in. This equally applies to both unfavorable and favorable circumstances. You may be surprised to hear about the latter condition, but according to Buddhist teachings, equanimity also demands being calm and composed in the face of intense excitement or happiness³.
Effectively, there are many practices that have been proven to cultivate and foster long-lasting states of equanimity which impart the user with profound psychological and spiritual benefits.
According to research, there are effective and highly accessible methods for you to practice and integrate equanimity as a fundamental pillar in your life. Remember that negative experiences and emotions are inevitable and avoiding them only increases their impact on your mind and emotions.
To be equanimous, you must embrace your emotions, be them negative or positive, and allow them to enter your mind without judgment or self-identification. Here, you become the observer and not the defender. Moreover, by doing this you remain anchored to the present and welcome the different thoughts, feelings, and sensations without being swayed by them because, as the observer, they stop affecting you personally.
More importantly, this promotes an inverse action of both promoting acceptance and negating experiential avoidance – Two crucial processes for equanimity¹.
In modern psychological practice, mainstream therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy have given us some tangible practices we can use to cultivate a lasting state of equanimity. Here are a few:
- Mindfulness Meditation: according to various studies, daily mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce levels of experiential avoidance and promote factors such as acceptance and tranquility.⁴
- The Middle is The Way³: Studies show that if you seek to remain balanced during adverse events, you must start by remaining balanced during positive events. Although it may seem counterintuitive to bring yourself down from a joyous moment, learning to do so in this context is crucial for doing the same in negative contexts.
- Confronting Challenges⁵: Although equanimity may sound like a state of indifference, it is not. When you are indifferent, you completely ignore a situation or challenging experience, whereas equanimity demands that you confront and embrace it for what it is.
Equanimity is not your ticket to eternal happiness or a cheat code to make life easy, but it is a powerful tool that will help you navigate the sea of emotions like a skilled captain. Evidently, you will still go through various storms and other challenging situations, but you will always know which path to take while retaining your emotional and spiritual integrity.
1. Desbordes, G., Gard, T., Hoge, E. A., Hölzel, B. K., Kerr, C., Lazar, S. W., … & Vago, D. R. (2015). Moving beyond mindfulness: defining equanimity as an outcome measure in meditation and contemplative research. Mindfulness, 6(2), 356-372.
2. Weber, J. (2021). A pilot study of a mindfulness-based equanimity intervention: University health lecturers’ perceptions of compassionate care for self and others. Mental Health.
3. Wallace, B. A. (2014). Mind in the balance: Meditation in science, Buddhism, and Christianity. Columbia University Press.
4. Juneau, C., Shankland, R., & Dambrun, M. (2020). Trait and state equanimity: The effect of mindfulness-based meditation practice. Mindfulness, 11(7), 1802-1812.
5. Hayes, S. C., Wilson, K. G., Gifford, E. V., Follette, V. M., & Strosahl, K. (1996). Experiential avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 64(6), 1152.
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